Helping ‘left behind’ children to learn
By Alison Broady,
Churchill Fellow David Stanley (CF 2019) has saved a music department in America which he visited during his Fellowship from closing down. The Music Department of Kean University in New Jersey faced closure due to Covid-19 related financial cutbacks earlier this year. David addressed the university board at a special consultation meeting - and it made a crucial difference in keeping the department open.
"Whilst the Fellowship might initially be about our learning, I think we have even greater value after our international research" - David Stanley, Fellow
David is an award-winning specialist in music for learning-disabled people. In 2019 he had visited the music department at Kean to see their approach to music education for this community. He observed their local community programme, which enables disabled musicians to access university studios, instruments and equipment, an experience described in his blog.
When David heard that Kean University was going to close its entire music department, he joined the campaign to keep it open. He wrote emails and a blog addressed to the university, asking them to reconsider due to the devastating effect the closure would have on their local learning-disabled community.
In June David stayed up until 1am UK time to personally address the university board at a special online meeting. During the call, he said: “In my Fellowship Report I describe the level of funding, duration, commitment and quality of teaching from your faculty staff and students as ‘a world-leading example of the transformative potential of further education and special education needs partnerships at an organisational level’. Instead of a priority for cutbacks, music is a jewel in the crown for Kean where your students give back to society and improve themselves by helping others.”
During the meeting, the importance of David’s Fellowship to the Kean music department became clear. The music teachers that David visited in 2019 used his Fellowship as an example to show the value of their work for disabled musicians stating “because a Churchill Fellow had travelled all the way to see it” and “we had been awarded the Churchill Medallion.”
This week, he was delighted to learn that his efforts had paid off. A new President at Kean University, Dr Lamont Repollet, has revoked the decision to make redundant 21 of the 25 music faculty and professional staff. David was told that his contribution had been vital in this decision. Colleagues at Keane told him.
“Thank you, David, for all of your efforts and advocacy. Yours was a particularly important voice in our appeal to the new administration. As a strong proponent of educational equity and closing the ‘opportunity gap,’ Dr. Repollet is impressed with the work we do in that direction. We will expand upon these initiatives with his and your support.”
David says: “I hope this little story shows once again the incredible impact the Churchill Fellowship can make around the world. Whilst the Fellowship might initially be about our learning, I think we have even greater value after our international research, where we can use our expertise, experience and, most of all, confidence to support and advocate for other people and organisations around the world.”
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